Exclusive: MINI’s New 8 Speed Automatic Transmission Revealed

Over the past five years there’s been plenty of speculation on these pages and others about what MINI would be replacing it’s long in the tooth six speed Aisin automatic transmission. The transmission, first seen in the R53 in 2004 has been a work horse for MINI ultimately finding its way (in revised spec) in the new F56. While improvements have made the unit (enough to even find it in BMW’s halo i8 sports car) six speeds doesn’t cut it in terms of performance or efficiency anymore. Enter BMW’s answer: the Aisin 8 speed AWF8F35.

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According to sources BMW had considered several options for MINI including the new ZF 9 speed and a dual clutch transmission. It would seem that the existing technical relationship between BMW/MINI and Aisin when it comes to front wheel drive transmissions helped sway them in that direction, there were also other factors at play. For one the BMW felt that the new breed of traditional automatics offers most of the performance of the DCT with greater comfort and higher efficiency.

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The more you look at the AWF835 the more it seems particularly well suited for MINI’s needs. For one the 8 speed has a decoupling mechanism that allows for a reduction in parasitic drag which allows for coasting on overrun – something that BMW has been incorporating in across its range. It’s also built from the ground-up to be compatible with MINI’s start/stop functionality.

Estimated MPG Figures

What does this mean to potential owners? According to sources, the AWF8F35 will add up to a 14% improvement in fuel efficiency when compared to the current Aisin 6 speed. Looking at MPG numbers for 2014 (the last that are available as of today), here’s an early look at what we could see out of a 8 speed automatic equipped F56.

Cooper S with Aisin 8 Speed AWF8F35 Automatic

  • 29 > 33 city
  • 40 > 46 highway
  • 33 > 38 combined

Cooper with Aisin 8 Speed AWF8F35 Automatic

  • 30 > 34 city
  • 42 > 48 highway
  • 34 > 39 combined

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Keep in mind this is straight math on our part and there could be other variabilities at play as MINI tunes this transmission to work with the existing engines. However it’s easy to see what a 14% improvement will do – immediately make the F5X generation of MINIs dramatically more efficient than anything that came before. Now imagine what this would do for the current diesel range – one of which, the Cooper SD we know is coming to the US within two years. Then there’s the plug-in hybrid that we will either see on the next generation Clubman or Countryman.

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The Timeline

If there was disappointment with MPG figures when the F56 was released, they will be quickly forgotten the second the 8 speed hits dealer lots. But the big question is when? Obviously MINI has to be chomping at the bit to get this upgrade out the door. Given that the improvement is so dramatic, we’d be surprised to see the company wait for the 2018 refresh to make the change. Instead we’d expect something much sooner, possibly coinciding with the launch of another variant like the JCW and Convertible next spring or even the Clubman next summer. However these dates are purely based on our best guesses at this point.

One important clue in how MINI roll out adoption if the 8 speed is BMW’s own use of the transmission in the 2 Series Active Tourer. Currently the AWF8F35 is only available in the four cylinder versions of that car meaning the 1.5L three cylinder engine is still mated to the six speed. What that means for MINI is still unknown.

Expect to hear much more on the new Aisin 8 Speed AWF8F35 soon.